Also commonly known as soldier's woundwort, Knight's milfoil, achillea, military herb, nosebleed, green arrow woundwort, carpenter's grass, etc.
Parts used: Leaves, flowers
Meridians/Organs affected: Circulatory, digestive, lungs, liver
Astringent, diaphoretic, carminative, hemostatic, antibacterial, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, expectorant, diuretic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, antipyretic, vulnerary, emmenogogue, tonic and antiseptic.
Yarrow is a member of the sunflower family. It has very old beginnings. Legend has it that Achilles used it for his wounded soldiers (hence its name achillea millefolium after the famous Achilles). However, it actually was the centaur Chiron who taught Achilles about the plant, or so the tale goes, and the knowledge he gained from his friend Chiron is what saved his men in the battle of Troy (using yarrow that is). It has also been used as a love charm, for beer making by the Swedes in the place of hops, and by old women as a mystical tea for hair loss due to old age.
Yarrow has a stem with alternating, lacy-looking leaves that are somewhat feathery in nature, soft and green. The flowers of the wild variety are white and grow in clusters. (Incidentally, it is the white flowered ones that are the medicinal variety, NOT the colored ones). The flowers are small and have 5 petals on the tiny heads. It can grow up to 2 feet in height and flowers from June to November. It is one of the longest flowering herbs we have. It can be found along roadsides, hillsides and in low mountain ranges, and is best collected (meaning it is at its most medicinal) between July and August from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is drought tolerant and grows well in sunny, dry soil. In fact, it is said that is one wishes to grow yarrow from seed one should deliberately deprive the plant of water (at least don't water it very much) as it will do better and be more medicinal in the long run if deprived of the water that would normally be given to any plant.
Yarrow is one of the first plants that was in Dioscorede's first-century herbal entitled, 'De Materia Medica', which tells us of its The Chinese have used it for fevers, colds, inflammation and in poultices for wounds. According to early physicians it has been used since 100 B.C. for agglutinating blood (the clotting and de-clotting of blood, as yarrow works to serve each purpose). It was carried as a wound dressing by battle surgeons the world over until about the time of the Civil War (1860's). Yarrow has been used for bleeding hemorrhages, cuts, amenorrhea, menorrhagia, vaginal leucorrhea and poor pelvic circulation. As it is astringent in nature it has also been used for hemorrhoids to great success.
As one of yarrow's properties is as a carminative, it is also helpful in relieving upset stomach and gas. Used as a diaphoretic, yarrow will induce sweating, which can be useful in cases of fever or an infection that needs the assistance of a 'sweating' herb to rid the body of toxins. Some of the constituents in yarrow actually resemble those of aspirin which may explain its use as an anti-inflammatory for rheumatic complaints. In Asian cultures it is still used today as a decoction for abscesses, stomach ulcers and a lack of menstruation. The flavonoids in yarrow have been noted to clear blood clots and lower blood pressure. It has been used for small pox, measles, chicken pox, etc. as it is considered safe for children. Yarrow also was once referred to as "Englishmen's quinine" for a claimed benefit of being a treatment for malaria. As it has an effect on the body's fluids, yarrow is said also to be effective in cases of dysentery and diarrhea, colic, cystitis, arthritis and a host of other complaints.
Cooled yarrow tea makes a good eyewash and stimulates the scalp. The crushed leaves help with both earaches and toothaches. It is a good source of iron, potassium, calcium, sulfur, sodium, achillein and achilleic acid (the last two substances help to reduce the time it takes for blood to clot which makes yarrow so effective for hemorrhages and acute wounds).
CAUTION: Yarrow is contraindicated during pregnancy as it can stimulate uterine contractions. However, it is VERY useful AFTER childbirth to control bleeding. It can also make one more sensitive to sunlight so one should be aware of that is using yarrow for any length of time).
As is customary, I am including links below for items involving yarrow you might be interested in.